July 4th, 2010

forums, me, non blog

[FORUM] Should religion apologize for homophobia?

This Towleroad post, describing the efforts of an evangelical Christian group to apologize to queers for past wrongs at a Pride event, created a lot of heated comments.

A group from The Marin Foundation, a Christian group whose goal is building bridges between the religious and LGBT communities, set up in an area adjacent to Chicago's Gay Pride parade over the weekend, writes Nathan, a Director of Pastoral Care at the foundation, in a blog post:

"I spent the day at Chicago’s Pride Parade. Some friends and I, with The Marin Foundation, wore shirts with 'I’m Sorry' written on it. We had signs that said, 'I’m sorry that Christians judge you,' 'I’m sorry the way churches have treated you,' 'I used to be a bible-banging homophobe, sorry.' We wanted to be an alternative Christian voice from the protestors that were there speaking hate into megaphones."

Nathan discusses the various reactions to the group as people read their signs and "got it", but was most touched by one parade participant:

He stopped dancing. He looked at all of us standing there. A look of utter seriousness came across his face. And as the float passed us he jumped off of it and ran towards us. In all his sweaty beautiful abs of steal, he hugged me and whispered, “thank you.”

Before I had even let go, another guy ran up to me, kissed me on the cheek, and gave me the biggest bear hug ever. I almost had the wind knocked out of me; it was one of those hugs.

This is why I do what I do. This is why I will continue to do what I do. Reconciliation was personified.

I think a lot of people would stop at the whole “man in his underwear dancing” part. That seems to be the most controversial. It’s what makes the evening news. It’s the stereotype most people have in their minds about Pride.

Sadly, most Christians want to run from such a sight rather than engage it. Most Christian won't even learn if that person dancing in his underwear has a name. Well, he does. His name is Tristan.

However, I think Jesus would have hugged him too. It’s exactly what I read throughout scripture: Jesus hanging out with people that religious people would flee from. Correlation between then and now? I think so.

Like Dan Savage, who originally pointed me to this story, I don't know too much about The Marin Foundation or its underlying goals and philosophies, so I'm hesitant to endorse them as an organization.

It turns out not so pro-gay as all that, according to Michael Signorile's reserarch back in 2006, the founder Andrew Marin making a distinction between "affirming" and "welcoming" and speaking more to the sorts of homophobia that keep queers from feeling able to participate in his sorts of denominations, as opposed to the deeper homophobia that devalues people on the grounds of their sexuality. The Marin Foundation is certainly a liberalizing force within its own environment, but that particular liberalization--humanization, really--is relative, and really only that relevant, within the broad tent of American evangelical Christianity.

The idea of an apology to queers for centuries of religious homophobia, though, still seems like a good idea. Louis Crompton's Homosexuality and Civilization chronicled the milennia of documented queer presence and influence in world history, but also documented the too-numerous persecutions, tortures, and massacres that queers were subjected to on the grounds that their sexuality offended the established religious order, to say nothing of the inactions. Crompton thought a request for an apology was justified. The Catholic Church repented of its past treatment of the Jews, didn't it?

Leaving aside events elsewhere in the world and in other denominations, I'm reminded of the evangelical Christian leader who started a book on her involvement in treating HIV/AIDS in Africa by commenting on how early in the 21st century, she realized on picking up a photomagazine with pictures of afflicted children that innocent people were dying of AIDS, more than twenty years after HIV/AIDS became well-known in the United States. Granted, orphans are more photogenic than fags. Lol?

What do you think? Is an apology--or rather, a collection of apologies, made by representatives of different denominations of different religions in ways varying according to the specific location of each--for past homophobia merited? Or not?